Yesterday, 8th of April, 2010, I spent the day at the Ontario Courthouse at 151 Elgin St, downtown Ottawa.
No – I am not in trouble. At least, not more than the whole thing of ‘breathing’ implies. Rather, I went to see how the appeal case of ‘Richard Warman vs Personal Privacy and Internet Anonymity’.
I will be writing that up shortly – and posting link to Connie Fournier’s write up of it. But, I have about 48 pages of notes, so it’ll take me a while to write it up (most of that time will be spent in trying to decipher my handwriting).
This post is called ‘A day in law-law land’ not because the case itself is not meritorious, nor because it was not argued well. It was the ‘getting there’ that felt like being in one of those weird Kafkaesque dreams….much of it due to my unpreparedness, I’m sure, but also because I am so very unfamiliar with he mechanics of how a courthouse operates.
After packing my ‘little ones’ (OK – they are taller than I am) off to school, I headed downtown, to the heart of the City of Ottawa, to witness our legal future being made. In my never-humble-opinion, this is a very important case because it is in the intersection of several really, really important issues which our society really needs to ‘figure out’ how to ‘deal with’: privacy issues, freedom of the internet, freedom of speech.
You know, the biggies!
So I figured that I would have no problem figuring out where ‘the case’ was: just follow the throngs of reporters and TV crews and all that!
Since the Courthouse is right next to the Ottawa City Hall, and since the Ottawa City Hall is -by far – the cheapest place in downtown Ottawa to park (it cost me just $12.00 for the whole day!), I parked there. But, it meant that I entered the Courhouse through a door in the back, not the main entrance. People stood all around, smiling so as not to look nervous – or just giving up and looking grim.
Lots of people were marching around in a self-assured way, some pulling little suitcases on wheels. You know, sort of like pilots and stewards/stewardesses do – but without the smiles. Since we were nowhere near an airport, I figured that there had to be another purpose to this and resolved to devote some of my time to observing it further in the hope of figuring it out. But not now – now I had to find the courtroom where this appeal case was being heard, in the hopes of getting there early enough to be able to squeeze in, get one of the last available seats in the courtroom…
No throngs of reporters in sight….
So, I started to walk around – I was bound to see them somewhere!
After wandering about for about 10 minutes, I still did not see any gaggles of reporters. Nor any information booths – I’d been on the lookout for these for the last 7 minutes or so, too: just in case.
Circling back to the main entrance, I began to suspect that the big desk with huge signs that people with disabilities ought to go talk to them there to get help might, perhaps, also double as an information desk. So I approached it, hoping they would tell me where to go.
Taking a look at my walking cane, they started to want to help me with ‘accessibility’… Now, OK, I was walking with a cane, but my issue was not ‘accessibility’, it was trying to find out where it was I wanted to ‘access’!
After claiming ignorance of any ‘Richard Warman vs. Personal Privacy and Internet Anonymity’ case, they offered me a list of the day’s schedule: it listed times, court room numbers and the names of the judges who will be doing the judging in those rooms. Not the names of the cases….
I did not know the names of the judges!
It was about then that I began to notice the beautiful architecture of the Courthouse – and just how much it looked like the descriptions of The Castle!
Any and all descriptions of the case I was looking for drew nothing more than blank stares…until one of the guys picked up on a clue: did I say this was ‘an appeal’? Yes? Well, then I had to go down the hall to the right and sign in at kiosk #4. That way!
All right – I guess it is a security measure. Makes sense.
I followed the vague wave of the arm and, at the end of the hallway, there truly was a kiosk#4. It was one side of a counter which sort of intruded into an area of cubicles: I was on the ‘halway’ side of the counter. On the ‘cubicle’ side, there was a lady searching through a bankers’ box of papers, another lady typing busily on her keyboard, a distracted looking person (also female, I think) dejectedly rushing around with a bunch of files clutched tightly to her chest…..
After standing at the counter for about 4 minutes, another person – this one young, male and smiling – appeared from the bowels of the cubicles and actually acknowledged that I was standing there. After he finished his conversation with someone invisible from my vantage point, he came over to see what I wanted.
He was very nice. Why would I think I needed to sign in? He obviously thought me only partly ‘there’, if I thought I needed to sign in…. But, at least he did know that there was some sort of an appeal being heard that day. He consulted his paperwork and directed me to courtroom #37. He was really rather nice.
Now I regretted that when I wandered around earlier, I was only looking at ‘people’ and looking for crowds instead of paying attention to the numbers of the courtrooms I was passing by. I had no idea where #37 was! So, I wandered about some more….
Finally, I gave up and went back to the ‘information desk’. They already suspected my ‘disability’ was not limited to the cane bt that I probably also had ‘diminished capability’ – explaining to me that courtroom #37 was on the third floor…
Makes sense – of course!
Now my forehead was hurting, too.
The Courthouse is really beautiful. Built in the ‘open-middle-to-to-give-an-air-of-grandeur’ style. Lots of skylights light up the spacious halls. Very pretty.
The elevators are all glass – the back side exposed to the brightly lit, multi-story open area. To access them, one has to sneak into the dark narrow hallway behind the information desk. So I did – and was on my way to courtroom #37!
I must have bumbled around so long, everyone must already be in the courtroom and these 3-4 people left out front must mean there are no seats left!
But, no – the courtroom is locked, nobody inside.
The people in front have never heard of Richard Warman.
My heart dropped.
Leave me a simple task, like showing up at the Courthouse to see the wheels of justice in motion – and I can’t even do that!
There were a lot of people in the room next to courtroom #37 – so I explored. It was the ‘jury-duty-call-up’ room.
As I was preparing to leave, I noticed that two of the people who rode up in the elevator with me (and whom I saw walking purposefully towards some goal during a few different points in my adventure – one was even pulling one of them little suitcase thingies on wheels) were walking towards a small group of people…. Hey! One of these people is Mark Fournier! And there’s Connie!
I FOUND IT!!!
I asked Mark and Connie to pose for a photo.
Did you know taking pictures in the courthouse is forbidden?
My day in law-law land was off to a great start!